July 11, 2008

Revisting the Selfish Issue

A little over a month ago, I wrote a post asking whether suicide was selfish without coming to any real conclusions.

I still haven't, really. But there's an awful lot of views.

In a comment on the original post, CatatonicKid wrote that:

I think the 'selfish' idea comes out of, much of the time, an underlying assumption people have that really people don't want to die if it can possibly be avoided. So any reason not to do it should be reason enough to the mind of someone who isn't tied up in depression or grief. We're all selfish when we're in pain, is the thing. Every single one of us, it's human nature.

Well, suicide is a last resort. And if you think about it, it takes an awfully good Samaritan to patch other people up after something like a car accident before tending to their own wounds.

I remember reading a while ago- I'm not sure where, but I have a feeling it was on somebody's blog- that your life can be compared to a owning a business. You are the primary owner and make most of the descisions, but there's also stockholders who share it with you. Suddenly bailing on them isn't very nice.

On Suicide Survivor Letters, a blog where people send in letters saying what they never could say to family and friends lost to suicide, part of a letter titled "Justin" reads:

Damn you for not being as strong as you let on. Damn you for not leaning on me when you knew I was there for you. And damn you for being so selfish.

In the letter to Bret on the same website, someone wonders who's really the selfish one- the survivor or the dead:

Maybe it’s selfish of me to feel so sad. I know we didn’t have the chance to remain friends even after we split apart. But I never wished you harm, even through all the anger and tears, I never wanted this, I never dreamed you were capable of giving in.

And I’m angry, I’m angry and I’m hurt and I want you to be here so I can yell at you for being so selfish and not…reaching out. But you wouldn’t have, would you? You never would have really reached out and told anyone how lonely or hopeless you felt. Always so concerned about appearances, about being strong and being able to withstand anything.

I wonder if she's right, that it's the survivors who are selfish. I guess it comes down to who is hurting more- and there isn't a measure for that.

Here, people write responses to the same question. Some are well-thought out, but there are the ever-present illiterate jerks too.

Some of my favorite responses:

Suicide may be selfish, but to a suicidal person this means nothing. I mean, if a person kills himself/herself, he or she won't have to think about what they've done or deal with the people they've hurt. So yes, it is very selfish, but I'm not so sure how much a suicidal person is going to care about his or her image after he/she is already dead. That's the whole point of suicide. To escape thinking.

suicide at the point of commiting it, isn't selfish. to the person who toys with the idea of suicide it is merely an escape, often one they think is appropriate because they feel like no one cares. most of the time suicide is accompanied by the suicide note. this carefully worded letter usually is a spawn of guilt this person felt before going through with the act. in this sense we must realize that they identified suicide as an impacting event but never considers it selfish therefore leaving behind apologies, confessions, reasons, etc. personally, suicide is both selfish and "the only way". i do believe there are other ways to get through problems, and having been there myself know that there are people who can help. friends family doctors... suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

By making anothers pain about us are we being selfish?In stating that when one commits suicide and leaves us with all but pain and agony it is selfish.It was their choice. Yes. Their suicide will bring us pain but it is rediculous to make it all about what we feel. Their feelings obviously drove them to it and having done it we obviously did not help so why is it such a horrible thing. Maybe they lacked our support. Maybe we were being selfish by not providing it.If someone feels the need to commit, peoples feelings dont come into consideration. It is up to us to help ourselves. Nothing can be done for us.It is our race to run. Our choices should not be reworded to suit another.

What if we take the argument the other way round...take the example of euthanasia (considered as suicide by some). Is it selfish from the family members to insist on keeping the patient alive (against his will) even though he/she has no reasonable opportunity of completely recovering and leading a normal life ever again? In this case it can be argued that relatives are putting their emotions in the first place and ignoring the patient's. Is that selfish? I would say YES

And there's an open question on Yahoo!Answers... I think it's absurd how money got dragged into this one; welcome to the modern world, I suppose: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080710015549AAlE6ay

Conclusion for today: I still can't give this question a straight answer. And so can't a lot of people, apparently.


  1. Suicide is a lot of things, maybe. I mean, no two people come into the world the same way and no two people will leave it the same way either or for the same reasons.

    When we talk about suicide as selfish I sometimes think that maybe what we mean is that we simply don't understand it. We feel reduced by the constant nagging grief it induces, so better to be angry and focused than distraught...?

    And if we didn't feel that it was a selfish act then wouldn't it be a little too easy for people to think of it as an option?

    Yes, it's a complicated issue alright.

  2. I CAN give you a direct answer to this one. I have tried to commit suicide 3 times in my life - the last time I woke up in the ICU with a priest standing over me reading me my last rites, so I am somewhat of an expert on this subject. SUICIDE IS NOT SELFISH!! Anyone who considers suicide is not in their right mind (obviously) When someone contemplates suicide the level of pain, either emotional or physical is at such a high degree that there is absolutely no room for thoughts of others. Their pain takes up every space in their mind. I think more ofen people who commit suicide think they are doing others a favor because they dislike themselves soo much.